andrew burke





John C. Dvorak Misses It

Posted on: 2007-10-09

I'm not even going to link to it - you can simply Google for 'Dvorak AJAX bad web sites' and find it for yourself - but John C. Dvorak's latest column is fundamentally wrong.

One could argue that Dvorak has been wrong for decades now, but in this one he manages to be almost right while getting the main point wrong. He complains about a web site ( and blames all of its problems on AJAX.

This is an AJAX site, right? It's got all sorts of stupid drop-downs, weird highlighting, things coming on and off the screen for no real reason, lines of type stepping all over each other—all the classic elements of design by committee, the bane of AJAX.

Actually, John, none of these are AJAX problems. I agree that the site is kind of crap, but it's CSS, DHTML, and JavaScript crap. AJAX is about reloading little parts of the page from the server rather than the whole thing - think Google Maps' seemingly endless scrollable window or the instant updates in Ta-Da List - while things like flaky drop-down menus and dancing border higlights are all from bad CSS, DHTML, and JavaScript. Since all of these things are often used along with AJAX, it's easy to conflate them - but silly me I thought that big-shot tech columnists were supposed to understand these kinds of differences.

I've found little use for AJAX in regular websites - unique bookmarkable URLs for individual pages are too important - but it's fantastic for web-based applications. When a user picks a location from a menu or adds an item to a order, it's much better to have the address and prices update independently than have to reload the whole page. As for CSS and DHTML, the lighter the hand, the better.

Previous: Protecting Your OS X Mail With Encrypted Volumes
Next: XKCD Job Interview